Where have I been? Where have YOU been?

December 6, 2011 § 2 Comments

Well, it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Life’s been crazy (again) and I just got distracted, fell behind, had other things going on…you know, life. BUT, now I’m back, and I have all sorts of things to tell you about. Not the least of which is I have actually come up with a scheduling system that might actually work for me because it’s pen and paper rather than electronic and is in fact very similar to the only other system that has worked for me, which I used in college (“college” wasn’t as long ago for me as you might think — I didn’t go ’til I was 30).

So, hopefully life will un-crazy itself a little and combined with my new-old system there will be much bloggy goodness in the weeks and months to come.

First up, November’s Taste & Create. Yes, I know it’s December. I’m late. Again. See above re: life. This month, I was paired with Angry Asian Creations. She has a ton of delicious sounding dessert recipes, and I had settled on the Six Minute Chocolate Cake. Then I had Zack’s birthday weekend, wherein I baked four cakes, three of which were miserable failures (more on that in a later post). So yeah, not going to be baking cake for awhile. In fact, my kitchen has been full of fail for quite awhile now, with very few exceptions, so I really wanted something I couldn’t eff up too badly easy.

Since I’m trying to get more veggies into my diet, Sugar Snap Peas with Lemon and Olive Oil seemed right up my alley. Except I don’t like lemon, so I went with lime instead. And they’re…okay. Very fresh, very crisp, very light. I think I’ll enjoy them more in the summer, when a cold crispy snack is exactly what I’m looking for.

Light and crispy!

Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 bag sugar snap peas (I got mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Slice the peas thinly on the bias. Toss in a bowl with lime juice and olive oil.

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Taste&Create Two-fer

October 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

Preview of the noms

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been a bit under the weather…it’s a chronic problem we’re still trying to diagnose, yadda yadda yadda. But I was finally starting to feel better and damned if I didn’t get a nasty virus that laid me up for about a week. Now I finally seem to have beaten that down, so I’m going to blog about a whole buncha stuff and hopefully get a nice backlog of content ready to go.

First and foremost, though, I still owe my Taste&Create for September. I feel so bad about how late it is (almost a month!) — and also I had so much trouble picking just one recipe from The Bad Girl’s Kitchen — that I decided to make two of them: a pear crumb pie, and peanut butter cookies.

First up, the pear pie. This came out delicious…the crumb is outstanding, and I’ll probably substitute it for the crumb on my apple pies in the future, which is decent but not quite as nommy. Instead of the crust recipe included, I used my standard go-to butter pie crust, with the addition of some cinnamon and nutmeg. (This is one of my favorite things about making pie…customizing the pie crust so it accents the flavors in the pie.) I think I’ll try the included recipe next time, but I was getting a little fuzzy around the edges from meds, so decided to stick with what I know this time.

Mmmmmm...pie

The crust recipe I used (note: I made a double batch because I was also making a pecan pie. For a single crust, halve everything.):

  • 1 c. butter
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 7-8 Tbsp ice cold water/vodka/rum (this time I used rum, for the flavor)
  • Any additional desired spices/flavoring
When you’re making pie crust, the colder everything can be, the better. I generally just use refrigerated butter, but in deep summer I do throw  it in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Also, pre-measure your flour and toss in the freezer for 15 minutes as well.
Cube the butter (remember to keep your fingers off it…body heat from your fingers’ll warm it right up). Add to flour (plus additional flavoring if desired — this time I used about 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg) and combine, either in food processor or with a fork or pie crust tool (I used to do everything by hand, but the food processor is soooo much easier, not to mention faster. If you’re using one, though, be extra careful to work the flour as little as possible). Now begin adding the water or booze (the alcohol will cook out, don’t worry). Start with about 4-5 Tbsp, then leave the processor going (or combine fully) and continue to add 1 Tbsp at a time until you have the correct consistency. In the food processor, that will look like this:

Stop it as it just comes together. If you keep it going, you'll end up with a ball of dough rather than the rather crumby mass you see here, but it completely overworks the dough and will make it very tough)

Grab about half and wrap it in plastic wrap, gently forming a disc. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour, then roll out on a floured surface or a Magic Dough Pastry Mat (I cannot tell you how much I love this thing). You can refrigerate for longer, but I personally find the dough very difficult to roll out if it gets fully chilled so I prefer to roll at the 30 minute mark, then fold in quarters and re-wrap/re-refrigerate if I’m not ready to make my pie yet.

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Next, the cookies. These are AMAZING, but sadly only made about 2 dozen (so next time, I double the batch 🙂 ). I forgot to fork the last batch (to make the traditional cross-hatch pattern on the top), but it turns out I actually liked those better, because the granulated sugar remained on  more of the surface. I did flatten them after removing from the oven, but I think they would have naturally flattened as they cooled anyhow. I think I might try these with non-nut butters one of these days for my nutter (allergic to nuts — thanks, CarolAnne!) friends.

COOOOOKIEEEEEEE!

Huge, huge apologies to Min, the coordinator of Taste&Create for my tardiness on this — it won’t happen again, I promise! This whole thing is just way too much fun.

Expanding My Horizons

August 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

And my waistline, but so, so worth it. I came across this thing called Taste & Create a few months ago, where people make food from each other’s blogs (you sign up and get assigned a partner each month — it’s very cool). I decided to participate for the first time this month, and my partner was Always Eat On the Good China. The hardest part was choosing a recipe to make (and I’m totally going to make more of them — she has some really nommy sounding stuff!) but I finally settled on the Chicken Puffs. Chicken, bacon, cheese, puff pastry…what could possibly go wrong? Nothing, in this case. They were amazing.

Delish.

I did modify the recipe a little to use what I had on hand (for example, I used goat cheese instead of cream cheese), and since I’m not a huge fan of plain chicken, I also decided to play around with marinades* and tried something new: OJ and balsamic vinegar. Yeah, that’s a keeper (1c. OJ + 1 Tbsp BV to cover about 1.5lbs of cubed chicken). She mentions in her post about the recipe that although the pic shows a whole chicken breast, she now cuts it into bite size chunks, so I went that way with it. And I didn’t mix anything up for the cream cheese mixture — I just threw a bunch of goat cheese on top and then topped it with some fresh basil, because I am lazy. Oh! Also instead of spraying my cookie sheet I just lined it with parchment paper which works beautifully for keeping stuff from sticking. And I didn’t brush with the egg wash, but that was just because I totally forgot to do it. Seemed to come out fine, but they would’ve been a little crispier with the wash.

The pile of nommy stuff going into the middle of the puff: chicken, goat cheese, bacon, fresh basil.

So, modifications I’ll probably make next time I make this (because there will be a next time): First off, I think I’m going to try it as a pot-pie kind of thing…the puff pastry-to-filling ratio is just really high. Now, it’s puff pastry, so it’s not like my tastebuds are complaining, but I think it will be just as tasty topped with the puff instead of surrounded by it. Second — you might want to sit down for this one — I’m going to leave the bacon out. I just really didn’t feel like it added much to the flavor experience in this case. Weird, I know, but there you are. I also will probably try different marinade/cheese combos — I think this would be great with something spicy on the chicken and cheddar cheese, for instance. And there you have it…my first Taste & Create. This was tons of fun — I’m totally going to do it again next month!

Fresh from the oven.

*A note on using a marinade on something you’re going to wrap in puff pastry and bake: you need to dry it out before you put it in the pastry. Throw it in a saute pan and brown it — you’ve got lots of sugar in this marinade, so even let it caramelize a bit. You don’t need to worry so much about it being cooked through — the baking in the oven part will take care of that. And it won’t get too dry b/c you’ve added all that moisture to it.

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